gooood would dig into projects which are appropriate for deeper report, in order to present the project in a more comprehensive way. In this episode, we interviewed C+ Architects for their recently completed Restaurant “Ya”. gooood had an in-depth conversation with Cheng Yanchun, chief architect of this project. More: C+ Architects on gooood
出品人：向玲 | Producer: Xiang Ling
编辑：陈诺嘉，武晨曦，李诗蓉 | Editor: Chen Nuojia, Wu Chenxi, Li Shirong
▼视频，video ©C+ Architects
——陈冰（崖 / under clouds 联合创办人，项目业主）
Q&A with C+ Architects
▼餐厅一览，overall view of the restaurant ©许晓东
The Restaurant “Ya” is a Yunnan specialty restaurant located in the hutong of Beijing. How did you reflect the characteristics of Yunnan in the design?
During the whole process of project, the topics we discussed with the owners didn’t stop at the level of “how to design a good restaurant”, but conducted in-depth exploration around the theme of “the modern expression of Yunnan regional culture and food culture”. The physical existence of the restaurant space itself is an important part of information transmission. When referring to Yunnan, many people’s first reaction is the various images and scenes of ethnic minorities. So in daily life you can see many Yunnan restaurants full of ethnic customs, but these are obviously labeled Yunnan, which is not true Yunnan. What we want to achieve is to make breakthroughs on the basis of maintaining Yunnan restaurant features, and produce content that meets the characteristics of the times and the temperament of the “Ya”.
Therefore, it’s not our goal to design a certain style restaurant. Whether designing a traditional building of Beijing or a regional building of Yunnan is obviously not suitable here. With the deepening of the design, we determined the tone of the restaurant – “Pristine”. “Pristine” means pure emotion, true state, natural materials and decent expression. It’s the best answer for “Ya” to interpret Yunnan.
When we first received the commission for this project, I remembered that my colleague Jin Qiuye, professor at BUCEA once wrote an article about Alvar Aalto. I was very impressed by one of the words: “Compared with Le Corbusier, Mies and other architects of the same era, Aalto appeared so low-profile. He had never sought a political opportunity or had the ambition to go abroad for professional achievements, but just as a person, thinking about a simple question – what kind of house is appropriate for me to drink a cup of tea in a sunny afternoon?” Yeah, in what kind of restaurant? With whom? What food to eat? And what kind of time will we spend here?
▼从室内就餐区看向庭院，view to the courtyard from the interior dining space ©许晓东
The contrast between the light and dark in the restaurant is very interesting. The depth of the main dining area increases the dark and ambiguous atmosphere. Why choose to put a part of indoor dining space in such an atmosphere? How do you control the light in the dining area on the other side?
The best way to experience the Restaurant “Ya” is to observe the changes of light, time and life. Since the space in the main dining area has little natural light and the net height of the house is only 2.5 meters, how to reflect the characteristics of the space itself and create a borderless feeling in it has become a key issue. When I first entered this somewhat low space, the first memory that appeared in my mind was the essay In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizaki. The lower the space, the more I want to create a sense of darkness and blur, and show a subtle beauty that exists in the light and dark at the same time.
We realized this idea by controlling several materials with different degrees of reflectivity, using faint light to increase the depth of the space, thereby achieving an ambiguous state. The opening of the main dining space is the boundary between light and shade. Inside is the darker part, and the aisle is the brighter part. People are more likely to obtain peace and stability in the dark place, which is also a reappearance of the experience I have obtained while studying traditional oriental architecture.
▼幽暗的室内就餐空间，interior dining space with limited natural light ©许晓东
▼从幽暗的室内看向庭院，view to the courtyard from the dark interior ©许晓东
Looking at the sinking dining area on the other side, the main dining time of the day is from noon to night, so we designed the east side rammed earth wall that best reflects the change of light as the most important background of the entire restaurant. As the four seasons in northern China change distinctly, particularly the plants grow and fall year after year, which makes people have a more profound awareness of the cycle of life.
Throughout the day, when the sun rises to its highest point, the shadow of the branches begins to sway slightly on the wall, and slowly moves its position with time, as if injecting life into the wall. At dusk, the rammed earth wall reflects the golden sunlight with its own color to the various spaces of the restaurant, and the dark metal plate also shows the hazy golden reflection, which is the time when the dinner has just begun. After nightfall, the restaurant has changed to another quiet atmosphere. The light in the room penetrates through the skylights, turning the rammed earth wall into a backlight. A warm and heart-touching light wall appears in the silent alley. Compared with the lighting of the surrounding large-scale commercial office buildings, it has the significantly different expression.
▼下沉庭院就餐空间，dining space in a sunken courtyard ©许晓东
The scenery in the Restaurant “Ya” also varies throughout the year. In spring and summer, jujube branches are lush, and act as shade curtains. Mottled tree shadows fall to the ground and walls through skylights. In autumn, the leaves fall and the sun shines into the restaurant, bringing a touch of warmth. In winter, when the snow melts on the skylight and the light comes in, there is a feeling of seeing the sunrise through the clouds and fog.
▼庭院，光影随时间变化，courtyard changing with seasons ©C+ Architects
Please share with us the status of the hutong before the transformation. What impressed you?
This project is located deep in the hutong of East District, Beijing. When you stand on the roof and look over, the enormous Galaxy SOHO is on the north side, and not far from the south is the Zhihua Temple surrounded by traditional houses. Usually, many residents take part in activities in the small park next to the restaurant. In addition to the daily atmosphere of life, you can also feel the strong impact of “modern” and “traditional”.
When I first visited the site, I saw a hundred-year-old jujube tree imprisoned indoors. It was in a very uncomfortable state. So the first thing after the project design started was to let the jujube tree regain its freedom by planning a courtyard, and then re-construct the scene sequence of the entire restaurant space with the tree as the center.
▼改造前建筑与周边环境，architecture and its surroundings before renovation ©C+ Architects
▼剖面图，以树木为中心重构餐厅空间序列，section, reconstruct the spatial sequence of the restaurant around the tree ©C+ Architects
How do you adapt the new space to the needs of modern restaurants? How to make use of the characteristics of hutong without causing adverse effects on the surrounding environment?
The conditions of foundation were very unsatisfactory, which brought new challenges to the design. Since the original house was built little by little by the owner himself, we clearly saw the connection between the building structures of several different periods after the demolition began. During the construction process, the design is basically modified while transforming. When problems are encountered, we need relevant professional consultants to discuss and judge on the scene, and then make the best choice according to the site conditions. The adjustment work appeared repeatedly throughout the process, making the project more difficult.
In order to ensure the continuity of the interface looking from main dining area to the courtyard, we replaced the middle sections of the structural wall and re-supported the house with a new steel structure, while reinforcing the originally unstable structure. A rough stone column is placed in the middle of the enlarged opening, which can not only add a natural stone element to the restaurant, but also emphasize the centrality of the space and obtain a certain sense of stability.
▼空间生成过程，generation of the space ©C+ Architects
▼模型，model ©C+ Architects
In addition, when doing projects in hutong, we must fully consider the relationship between neighborhood. For example, the rammed earth construction needs to build up two sides of the formwork and reserve the working interface, but in fact, only the interface facing the side of the restaurant yard can be used. In order to deal with this problem, the construction party first strengthened the courtyard wall that originally separated the neighbor’s house, and used it as a formwork on one side of the rammed earth wall, which not only solved the structural problem but also saved space.
▼夯土墙施工过程，construction process of the rammed earth wall ©C+ Architects
What is the relationship between the vertical spatial distribution and the existing terrain of the site? Why choose to dig deeper?
The ground elevation of the original house was unified, but we dug 0.7 meters under the area corresponding to the skylight, which is exactly the height of an ordinary dining table. I hope that the table in the sinking area and the floor of the main dining area are at the same height to create a different dining atmosphere. The arrangement of the two dining areas on the plan is in a diagonal relationship, and the height difference allows the two parts to interact visually.
As the restaurant is called “Ya (Cliff) ”, with a certain sense of tension and fun, we also tried to respond to the “Ya” through spatial language. The “broken bridge” across the courtyard, two parts of the staircase, the height difference of the dining area, the roof terrace, etc., are all echoing the information that the restaurant itself wants to express.
▼室外餐桌与室内地面平齐，形成视觉互动，the height of the outdoor dining table is the same as the ground level of the interior space, creating visual interaction ©许晓东
The staircase is a very characteristic detail in the courtyard, with concrete underneath and steel structure above. Why present stairs in this way?
The design of the staircase and the “broken bridge” are all considered as independent components. The staircase is divided into two parts made of concrete and steel. The bottom is a light-colored cast-in-situ concrete stepped foundation, which maintains the intentional uniformity with the indoor height difference. The upper steel stairs has a small distance from the rammed earth wall. While protecting the rammed earth wall, it also solves the drainage problem and can make the staircase seem lighter. The “heavy” bottom and the “light” upper part providing people with two very different experiences as they climb onto the roof.
The basic structure of the “broken bridge” is to pre-embed the member in the rammed earth wall, and then connect it through two fulcrums, it is also separated from the wall by a small distance. Slim linear materials are used for the “broken bridge” and the handrails, which form a visual contrast with the solid rammed earth wall. At the same time, because all components are relatively disconnected, we can clearly distinguish the structure of each part. The staircase – “valid”, together with the “broken bridge” – “invalid” are both unexpected places to appreciate the “Ya”.
▼楼梯细部，上下采用不同的材质，closer view to the staircase composed of two different materials ©许晓东
How do you deal with the relationship between the architecture and the old trees in the site? Why does the skylight of the courtyard adopt “V” shape?
My childhood life in Beijing has left me with many beautiful impressions. Year after year, the change of seasons in my family’s yard has made me feel the “symbiosis” of life. After a long time, these experiences have made me have a unique and profound emotion for the courtyards and trees in northern China. There is a big tree in the yard of the house in my memory. The extended crown almost covers the entire yard, just like the giant camphor tree featured in the Studio Ghibli’s film My Neighbor Totoro. After that, the roots even went through the fence into the neighbor’s yard and continued to sprout. And a few years later it grew into a new tree.
In summer, the family drinks tea and cools in the shadow under the tree. In winter, when the leaves fall out, the sunlight can shine through the branches into the entire yard. Every morning, the sounds of various birds such as swallows, magpies, and sparrows are heard from the trees, and occasionally woodpeckers. Basically, I didn’t need an alarm clock to get up. At night, I could still see an owl staying on a branch. In early summer, when neighbors came, they climbed to the tree to pick up some buds and cooked, the tree became the medium of communication in the neighborhood. Even looking back now, the scene around the yard and trees is a particularly ideal state of life in which people and environment are interdependent and dialogue.
▼庭院中自由生长的枣树，jujube tree freely growing in the courtyard ©C+ Architects
Meeting with the Restaurant “Ya” made me regain the past. In the design of the project, the indoor space around the big tree was first opened to form a new outdoor courtyard. From several different dining areas, you can see the courtyard where the tree is located through various reserved holes. Also, we have determined the V-shaped skylight design of the sinking dining area, while avoiding the growth direction of the main tree trunks, people will not feel awkward while standing on the roof.
The intention of the skylight comes from the impression when I was traveling in Yunnan, the low sky and the clear lake water. These “original scenery” of Yunnan are what I want to transplant into this restaurant. The sky poured into the V-shaped skylight can shorten the sense of distance between people and the blue sky and white clouds. When it rains, the rainwater converges into the middle groove with the angle of the skylight, and then flows along the falling water chain into the pot half-buried in the courtyard, which makes people feel a little cozy and romantic. The glass skylight reflects all the scenes in the space from the interior, interweaving various scenes inside and outside, and there are many dramatic scenes overlapping. When viewed from the roof, the glass reflects the shadows of sky and tree, like a floating pool. In the evening, the warm light that illuminates the city is revealed.
▼新天窗向下凹，倒映天光和树影，the new skylight with V-shape reflecting the sky and the tree ©C+ Architects
The cooperating structural engineer has rich domestic and foreign large-scale public building design experience. Coincidentally, many years ago, he was also involved in the roof structural design of the Galaxy SOHO opposite the restaurant. Now for him, there is another opportunity to design a small glass roof that is only one-thousandth the size of the Galaxy SOHO roof just across an alley. However, although the area is small, the challenges haven’t diminished. We hope that the roof skylight will be light and transparent, while weakening the skylight’s heavy feeling, so that the diners below can more directly feel the sky and jujube tree’s branches and leaves. Since no matter how thin the finished skylight product is, it still can’t meet our requirements. In the end, the structural engineer designed the metal structural members into a “T” shape. And the glass was installed on the skeleton formed by the members. The cross section of the lower end of the T-shaped steel is relatively fine, which minimizes the interference of the structure on people’s sight.
▼天窗细部，减少结构对视线的影响，closer view to the skylight, reducing the effect of the structure on people’s sight ©C+ Architects
What kind of image does the rectangular stainless steel seating device on the roof express?
We want to design an installation on the roof that can talk to the venue, which can not only satisfy the basic rest function, but also create more visual possibilities. The long mirror stainless steel body can reflect all the surrounding scenes from different angles, the sky, clouds, buildings and trees, etc., and will constantly change its expression as the sky changes. At night, the hidden light strip at the bottom makes the whole device appear to be in a suspended state, like a spaceship floating from the unknown world.
▼屋顶不锈钢长椅反射上方景象，different scenes reflected by the stainless steel bench on the roof ©上/中：C+ Architects，下：gooood
How to choose the materials, and how to deal with the color and surface texture of the materials?
Yunnan is very rich at all levels. It is difficult to summarize clearly with a few keywords. Just like no building can fully represent Chinese architecture, this richness cannot be expressed in a specific form. However, nature itself is the most abundant, so we hope to express the richness of natural materials themselves. Organizing materials is like conducting a symphony orchestra. The main colors of the Restaurant “Ya” are only yellow and red in warm colors, with black and gray in cool colors. In these two color systems, each material shows a unique texture.
The orange rammed earth wall on the east side and the deep red travertine stone wall on the west side helped to define the boundary of the space. The texture of the rammed earth wall is based on the logic of construction, emphasizing the horizontal feeling. The vertical texture of the red stone resembles a waterfall pouring down from the ceiling, reminiscent of the work of Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju. The soil used for the rammed earth wall was transported from Yunnan, before construction, the rammed earth wall design team did a lot of research work on the texture scale and color ratio. We want to form the most important enclosed wall in the entire restaurant through the rich color layers of the rammed earth itself. Besides, the wall extends from the interior to the exterior, so that there is a connection between the inside and the outside, and the space is continuously extended.
Various cool-color materials are used in the interior, such as washed stone floors, hot-rolled steel plates and shou sugi ban wall surfaces, with different levels of reflectivity. The reflection of the metal is the strongest, the washed stone is the second, and the weakest is the shou sugi ban. Over time, this delicate and tiny difference can be gradually experienced. The authentic and pristine materials are placed in the space, with only basic protection and no extra decoration. The comparison between different materials also enhances people’s understanding of the entire restaurant.
▼庭院橘黄色的夯土墙与室内冷色材料形成对比，contrast between the orange rammed earth wall in the courtyard and the cold-colored materials in the interior ©许晓东
10. 这个项目在材料的选择上投入了大量精力，甚至可以说十分苛刻，这与C+ Architects的设计理念和追求有着怎样的联系？
This project has invested a lot of energy in the selection of materials, and it can even be said “very harsh”. How does this relate to the design concept and pursuit of C+ Architects?
The materials we have selected for the Restaurant “Ya” have gone through a long period of time. The principle is to let the characteristics of the materials themselves appear as natural as possible, and directly contact the environment. Even after a long time, these materials will not lose their charm, but become more attractive because of corrosion, oxidation, and wear.
▼耐久的夯土墙，墙面树影摇曳，rammed earth wall with shadow of the tree ©C+ Architects
Washed stone was adopted on the restaurant floor. I have seen the treatment of the washed stone on the ground of Enoura Observatory designed by Hiroshi Sugimoto when I was traveling in Japan, and we have designed a wall of the same material once, so this time I hope to challenge and make it better. We have compared and selected dozens of different gravels from size to color. It is necessary to consider the aesthetic factors, to take care of feeling of people walking on it and to ensure the stability of the furniture. The sample selection process is so long that the owner and construction partners have begun to consider alternatives. Fortunately, we didn’t give up and made it.
In addition, we have looked for more than a dozen suppliers to provide samples of shou sugi ban, and finally confirmed one relatively meets the design intention. The shou sugi ban is a common material in the countryside, so it is very important how to treat it in a more modern way. Especially the subtle changes in texture represent different expressions, and it took a lot of time to achieve precise expression. The emotion of the material itself is closely connected with the atmosphere of the space. We hope to gather all kinds of pristine materials in the “Ya”, and use the restrained processing methods to convey the temperament that the place wants to show as natural and authentic as possible.
▼室内就餐区，地面使用水洗石，interior dining space with washed stone floor ©许晓东
What other stories are behind the project, please share with us.
While studying in Japan, I met some good friends from Yunnan. In the years after returning to China, I received their project invitations and visited Yunnan for several times, which also gave me the opportunity to experience the local customs. However, due to various reasons, none have reached cooperation. Unexpectedly, it was in Beijing that a close relationship with Yunnan in the distance was created.
I still recall that after going to Tokyo, the first thing I noticed was the very different sky than my familiar hometown. I often sat in my apartment and watched the large clouds in the sky drifting quickly over the city within reach. The first time I went to Yunnan, the local sky made me feel déjà vu. Because of the high altitude, the cloud in Yunnan is very low. When the sky is clear, the cloud is more like floating directly over the head. This is the most direct and profound impression that Yunnan has shown me, and it is this impression that prompted me to design the V-shaped skylight for the “Ya”.
Until the first contact, the owner of the Restaurant “Ya” has been paying close attention to C+ Architects for nearly 3 years. They took a serious look at each of our previous projects, and visited the store we designed for the furniture brand “Lost&Found” with entire team. The “Lost&Found” Store chose washed stone as the facade decoration. This is a traditional material often used in old houses, natural and authentic. And it can awake people’s emotions of cherishing the beautiful things of the past which is very consistent with the message conveyed by the brand. At the same time, we challenged the new approach with the construction party, seamlessly bonding large pieces of washed stone walls, so that the shop finally showed a modern beauty. Since the owner saw our perseverance and patience in controlling details, and felt that the Restaurant “Ya” was a good opportunity for cooperation. Under the premise of understanding and trust, the communication between us has been smooth and there are many common languages. We have also benefited a lot from the entire cooperation.
What are the gains from this project?
The professional cooperation with consultants and the common architectural ideal of the whole team are essential. Although this is not a big project, the time and energy spent and the cooperation of various professional teams are no less than a large-scale public building project. In this process, if all participants don’t have a consistent goal, it’s impossible to implement and complete the original imagination of the project. Creation and breakthrough are always accompanied by difficulties and frustrations. When we overcome many obstacles and see people spend an important time full of joy in the restaurant, we have realized our most authentic desire in design.
▼夜景，night view ©许晓东
More about Restaurant “Ya”
Restaurant “Ya”, a place where the past meets the future
位于北京大方家胡同的“崖”，是C+ Architects为Under Clouds餐饮品牌设计的一间云南菜餐厅。掩映在民居、庙宇和商场写字楼之间，新与旧、传统与现代的气息并存。在项目设计和实施的整个过程中，建筑师与业主的探讨始终围绕着“云南文化的现代性表达”这一主题展开。从场地的解读到就餐环境的重新定义，从建筑结构加固到室内空间重构，从材料选择到食物呈现，经过一年多时间的打磨，承载了众多参与者丰富情感的“崖”，于2020年元旦诞生。
Located in Dafangjia Hutong, Beijing, “Ya” is a Yunnan cuisine restaurant designed by C+ Architects for the “Under Clouds” catering brand. It hides among the residential houses, temples and office buildings, where the characteristics of old and new, traditional and modern coexist. During the whole process of project, the discussion between the architects and the owners always revolved around the theme of “expression of modernity of Yunnan culture”. From the interpretation of the site to the redefinition of the dining environment, from the reinforcement of the structure to the reconstruction of the interior space, from the selection of materials to the presentation of food, after more than a year of polishing, Restaurant “Ya”, carrying the rich emotions of many participants, was born on New Year’s Day in 2020.
▼餐厅外观，external view of the restaurant ©许晓东
▼庭院，枣树被保留并恢复自然生长状态，the jujube tree in the courtyard was remained and could grow naturally ©许晓东
In the restaurant, a hundred-year-old jujube tree was enclosed by the former reconstruction work. Considering the traditional houses in Beijing, trees as an important element not only connect people with the site, but also symbolize the continuation of life. Therefore, in order to restore the jujube tree to its natural growth state, and allow the entire house to breathe freely, the architect opened a courtyard, and re-constructed the sequence of spatial scenes with the tree as the center.
Borrowing the original meaning of the word “Ya (Cliff) ”, the design emphasizes the visual interest of the space. The dining area on the east side sinks 70 centimeters, forming a vertical interaction with the west dining area and the courtyard. The outdoor staircase leading to the terrace is divided into two parts. The bottom is a light-colored cast-in-situ concrete stepped foundation, which maintains the intentional uniformity with the indoor height difference. The upper part is a section of steel staircase, together with a “broken bridge” on the roof are both unexpected places to appreciate the “Ya”. Above the sinking dining area is a “V” skylight with T-shaped steel frame, which avoids the growth direction of the main trunk, and also introduces the original scenery representing Yunnan’s strong, real and powerful sense into the “Ya”. When the diners look up, they can feel the blue sky and white clouds within easy reach. When viewed from the roof, the glass reflects the shadows of sky and tree, like a floating pool. In the evening, the warm light that illuminates the city is revealed.
As a social space, the “Ya” shows the close relationship between people, time and environment by using architectural language. A modern rammed earth wall implanted on the east side symbolizes the regeneration of the land in Yunnan. The ever-changing light and shadow flow on the wall, slowly settling over time. The rammed earth wall extends to outdoor, and together with the skylight, naturally introduces the scenery to the interior space. The opening at the indoor high-difference boundary line looks like a framing window, which fully displays the pictures of the courtyard and the wall, mobilizing the sight of guests in the western dining area.
In addition, the processing of construction materials is similar to the attitude of the chef handling the food. On the basis of retaining the original texture, the details are made more attractive through certain adjustments, and then present in a modern aesthetic way. The orange rammed earth wall on the east side and the deep red travertine stone wall on the west side are warm and rich in texture. These two walls embrace the restaurant that uses dark-colored materials such as shou sugi ban, hot-rolled steel plate and black washed stone. The colors are intertwined with each other, making the space atmosphere quiet and profound.
▼总平面图，master plan ©C+ Architects
▼一层平面图，first floor plan ©C+ Architects
▼屋顶平面图，roof plan ©C+ Architects
Message from the client
陈冰（崖 / under clouds 联合创办人）
Design Firm: C+ Architects
Architect in Charge: Cheng Yanchun
Project Team: Xu Liyuan, Tian Yuting, Zhou Qirui, Lee Kang Chan
Secondary Design and Construction of Rammed Earth Wall: Onearth Architecture
Structural Design: Zhang Jinbin
Program: Hospitality, Hutong Renovation
Dates: November 2018-December 2019
Location: Beijing, China
Area: 250 sq.m.
Photographs: Xu Xiaodong, C+ Architects